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  • Nick Z.

Why I still check an applicant’s employment references


I find myself incredibly fortunate to be able to live in Silicon Valley lately – California’s unemployment rate is down 4.2% and a typical household in San Francisco makes about $96,677 each year. As a startup founder, I find myself competing with the best talents in Silicon Valley. With unemployment so low, this means that potential employees are choosier when they apply for jobs – and so do companies. Companies today are just as picky when it comes to hiring – most even hire contractors first before transferring contingents in full-time positions.


As a start-up founder, one of the qualities I look for in an applicant is their level of commitment. I need someone with talents, sure – but I’m also looking for a scrappy individual who can commit their time and valuable resources to a project. And I’m not even talking about the length of time they stay with a company because let’s face it—millennials love to job hop. I’m merely talking about their commitment to seeing a project through.


It’s easy to get excited about a person. But as a company, the last thing you want is to hire someone who looked great on paper but does not have the soft skills to succeed in a work environment. And that’s really what we look for, isn’t it? Soft skills. Can I trust this person to provide follow-ups on the status of our project? Am I working with a good listener or is this someone I must manage beyond the onboarding process? This is where references come in.


Here are my top reasons why references are even more important today:

1. It should be a red flag if a candidate cannot or does not want to provide any references. A reference check is a good barometer on a candidate’s personality and character. They do provide insight into how others view them, helping a hiring manager have a better understanding of culture fit.

2. When hiring for your team, the goal is to effectively interview and qualify top candidates throughout the process. A hiring manager needs more than a “gut feeling” when it comes to hiring. They need data.

3. It’s another way to determine if the candidate not only interviews well but performs well in their job.


What is your experience with providing references, or being the hiring manager asking for references? Please sound off in the comments!

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